A note from Kelly King: After reading Kaye’s article today, I’m reminded that I often say the “wrong” thing to people who are experiencing pain. If you’re like me, I’m learning that sometimes the best thing to say is to not say anything at all! Consider Kaye’s helpful advice today. Better yet, make it a habit.
At one time or another we have all found ourselves in difficult, painful, even impossible seasons.
Perhaps you are in one now. If so, I am so sorry for your pain. If we could visit in person I would be curious to know if the well-meaning people in your world have said comments that have been helpful or harmful. In every circle of friendships there are people who seem to do and say just the right things, the helpful things, and the healing things, and that is beautiful. In every circle of friendships there are also people who are more like Job’s (think Old Testament) friends and seem to say all the wrong things, the harmful things, and the hurtful things, and that is not so beautiful.
In you have the privilege to walk with someone in their pain, remember there are words that are harmful and words that are helpful. Sometimes the most helpful thing you can say is this, “There are no words.” Another caring phrase is simply, “I’m so sorry.” In my opinion the absolute most helpful thing you can offer someone in pain is to be present with them. Sit in silence if needed.
Say nothing. This is the one thing Job’s friend’s got right! They started out fantastic by sitting with him and saying nothing. Boy did things change in a hurry! They couldn’t just be still and quiet, they felt compelled to share their “wisdom” and in doing so, did harm to their friend.
When someone shares with you something painful they are going through, please do not be thinking about how it relates to you. Please listen to their story. Please do not respond with a relatable anecdote about you or someone you know. Please listen to their story.
In fact, here are six words you should never say to someone in pain: “I know just how you feel.”
Don’t say it. Resist the urge. The truth is: you don’t. Even if your mother also died when you were in your 30s (or whatever the case is), you do not know how she feels.
Some of you are already thinking of a different way to phrase it like, “Something similar happened to me.”
Don’t say that either.
Please listen to their story, respond with empathy, and use words only when absolutely necessary.
Kaye Hurta has a Masters Degree in counseling from Liberty University and is a crisis counselor for Women’s Events through LifeWay Christian Resources. Whether speaking, singing, or listening, Kaye’s passion is to help others find intimacy with Christ and soul transformation through the living pages of His Word. Kaye met and married her husband Chris in Austin, Texas in 1987. They have two daughters through the miracle of adoption, Madison and Cami. Kaye is also a contributing author for the LifeWay resource, Women Reaching Women in Crisis.